Child support is every parent’s responsibility, and most parents who pay child support make it a priority. If you are divorcing, or if you never married your child’s other parent and you live separately, you may be ordered by a New York family court to make child support payments.
But what happens if your life changes after a child support order has been issued, and you are not able to make the child support payments that you’ve been ordered to make? In Western New York, you are going to need help from an experienced Rochester family law attorney.
HOW ARE CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENT AMOUNTS DECIDED?
To calculate the child support amount that a non-custodial parent will be ordered to pay, New York family courts use child support guidelines based on the combined income of both parents. It is a complicated formula that takes a number of factors into account.
However, New York family courts may deviate from these guidelines in particular situations. For example, if a non-custodial parent’s income is below the federal poverty line, or if that parent has excessively high medical bills and no health insurance, the court takes these factors into account.
After a child support order has been issued by the court, what happens, for example, if you lose your job, if you are injured and temporarily out of work, or if for some other reason you cannot make the child support payments ordered by the court?
WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU FAIL TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT?
You can’t simply stop making payments. Child support collection is aggressively enforced in New York, and if you do not make court-ordered child support payments, you’ll face legal penalties that could include having your:
- driver’s license suspended
- state and/or federal income tax refunds intercepted
- assets frozen
- passport request denied
- lottery winnings intercepted
- professional license(s) suspended
If you are unable to pay child support – in other words, if you are unable to meet the terms and conditions of the court’s child support order – what are your options? If you don’t pay your child support on time, your arrears will begin piling up. The state will take steps to collect that money.
HOW CAN A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER BE CHANGED?
Life changes. You don’t expect to divorce when you marry, and you don’t expect to lose a job when you get hired. No one knows the future. A child support order may quickly – or eventually – become outdated or impractical, so the courts sometimes modify child support orders.
The law in New York provides for changing circumstances, but the parent whose circumstances have changed is the person who must make the modification request.
If you are unable to make the child support payments that you’ve been ordered to make, you will need to file a petition for child support modification with the court – and you’ll need to do it immediately – with the help of an experienced Rochester family law attorney.
WHEN WILL A NEW YORK COURT MODIFY A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER?
Child support payment amounts can be modified by the court when there is a substantial change of circumstances in the lives of either parent or any of their children. In the State of New York, a substantial change of circumstances may include but is not necessarily limited to these situations:
- A parent is demoted, becomes unemployed, or accepts new employment.
- A parent sustains an injury that keeps him or her from work, temporarily or permanently.
- A parent gets remarried or has another child with a different partner.
- A parent moves to a different jurisdiction, state, or country.
- A parent is sent to a jail, prison, or another residential institution.
- The child receiving support turns 21 years of age.
If you aren’t able to pay the full child support amount that the court has ordered, speak to a New York family law attorney at once to begin the modification process.
If you need to modify a child support order for any reason, a family law attorney will petition the court on your behalf, request the modification, and explain to the court why the modification is necessary and appropriate.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO HAVE A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER MODIFIED?
Modifications to child support orders are not automatically approved. When a child support order has been issued by a New York family court, a great deal of calculation and consideration has gone into it, so the court isn’t going to change a child support order easily or quickly.
You’ll need documentation to prove that you’ve been injured, that you’ve lost your job, or that your life has changed in some other significant way that makes the original child support order outdated or impractical. Your attorney will determine what else may be needed.
WHAT IF THE NEED FOR A CHILD SUPPORT MODIFICATION IS DISPUTED?
Of course, there are two sides in every child support matter. If your child’s other parent has requested the modification of a child support order, and if you do not feel that the modification is called for, you’ll need a family law attorney’s help to challenge the modification request.
The surest way to have a child support modification request approved is to have the other parent’s support. If you are on cooperative terms with your child’s other parent, explain why you are requesting (or want to request) the modification, and work to gain that other parent’s support.
While the family courts in New York are much more likely to grant a child support modification if it’s supported by both parents, the courts do not automatically approve such requests.
New York’s family courts always place a child’s best interests above all other considerations, so any request for a modification of the child support order must be consistent with the child’s best interests. Your lawyer will advise you regarding the best way to present your request to the court.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONTACT A NEW YORK FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY?
Discuss your legal options and alternatives immediately with an experienced New York family law attorney if:
- You anticipate any dispute regarding child support during or after a divorce.
- You anticipate a child support dispute, and you never married your child’s other parent.
- You cannot pay the child support amount that the court has ordered.
- You need to have a child support order modified for any reason.
- You need to challenge the other parent’s child support modification request.
- You are not receiving the child support payments that have been ordered by the court.
Nothing is more important than your children, their well-being, and their future. If their custody or support is at risk, you must have a good family law attorney advocating for you and your children – as quickly as possible.